George and Patrick Reisch were born to be brewers. A fifth generation master brewer, George Reisch has worked for Anheuser-Busch for 35 years and was knighted in Belgium in 2011. His son, Patrick Reisch, is a sixth generation brewer and works for Goose Island. What’s incredible is that these natural born brewers may have never realized their passion if not for a relative who happened to overhear a conversation about beer.
The Revolutionary War ended in 1783 and shortly after the dust and smoke settled, the United States of America sent emissaries over to Europe. They were there with one very specific purpose in mind: bring brewers from Germany back to the States. During this time, the Reisch family lived in Niederhausen, located not far from Munich. Just 10 years old, one of the Reisch family members happened to overhear an American emissary talking about the opportunities available to those who were willing to bring their knowledge and expertise to the US to brew beer. The Reisch family was involved with butchery at that time but the young boy expressed his interest in brewing beer. He was sent about 30 kilometers from Niederhausen to a French brewery to apprentice and hopefully emerge as a journeyman.
At the age of 24, he entered the United States via New Orleans, just as many of the 5 million German immigrants that had traveled to the US had done during the 1800s. This Reisch went north to Cincinnati, Ohio before heading west to Springfield, Illinois, eventually settling in Beardstown. Working as a brewer and also a cooper (common at the time since kegs were used to ship more than just beer), he was able to save the money to move to Springfield, IL and open Reisch Brewery. The doors stayed open for 117 years before they were unable to compete with larger brewers. Luckily, the Reisch family didn’t stop brewing beer; George’s father accepted a job with Pabst in Milwaukee. The Reisches have remained in beer, with members working at various breweries throughout the years, including Schlitz and Hacker-Pschorr.
One thing that the business of brewing has instilled in the Reisch family is an appreciation for the history of beer. One of the first German beers to hit US shores was pilsner due to the Pilsner Revolution of 1842 which took place in the Czech Republic. This style of beer was very refreshing, made with soft water and the now famous Moravian Pilsner malt. The success of pilsner in the United States paved the way for more German styles of beer to become popular. Many brewers, for example, produced heavier beers during Lent, allowing observers to essentially drink a meal without breaking any rules. After Prohibition, however, America was woefully short on raw materials so the beers brewed were dictated by whatever brewers could get their hands on. Germans, being very social, also introduced Americans to the beer garden which, over time, evolved into the modern day tavern.
George has also studied the history of just how beer was consumed decades ago. Using photographs and newspaper advertisements, he discovered that beer was always served in glassware and he urges everyone who will listen to honor this tradition. In George’s eyes, this elevates beer, allowing operators to charge more. There’s also the point that Americans are often ridiculed overseas for drinking beer straight from a bottle or can. In terms of elevation, wine drinkers don’t often imbibe from the bottle; George sees beer as every bit on par with wine. Glassware programs also allow operators to serve their guests about 20% more beer, encouraging the purchase of food, in turn increasing spend. George is quick to point out that beer was always accompanied by food, as it stimulates the digestive process. For those who are sticklers when it comes to doing things the traditional way, a glassware program is the only way to serve and consume beer: the right beer in the right glass, poured straight down the middle.
Get the chance to meet George Reisch! He will be speaking at the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Show, March 7 – 9, in Las Vegas. Register today for a Super Premium, Conference Plus or Conference Pass to see his session.